This plan envisions the rebirth of the Root River Corridor as the heart of the City and a hub for economic growth by capitalizing on Racine’s unique geography within the Chicago-Milwaukee MegaCity.

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WestBluff Plan

The WestBluff Plan (Mound Avenue) aims to create an off-street riverfront pathway, outdoor classroom, and overlook from former industrial properties and blighted lots.

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EastBluff and Pedestrian Bridge SchematicsPedestrian Bridge and EastBluff Schematics

Created in partnership with the UW-Milwaukee Community Design Solutions at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, this plan includes design schematics for the proposed Pedestrian Bridge connecting the East and West banks of the Root River [under the 6th street bridge – 1300 block], and creation of an overlook and improvements to Azarian Park (Water St.).

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Mound Avenue Riparian Survey

Created in partnership with UW-Parkside’s Biogeography Department, this plan documents the plant species along the Root River at WestBluff (Mound Avenue).

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The Root River:  a Natural Gem, an Economic Engine

read the Root River Council’s Back to the Root Plan HERE


Racine has an opportunity to redevelop the Root River in a way that will allow residents and visitors access to this valuable natural amenity. Racine is improving, and careful consideration has been made to determine how areas like downtown and the lakefront are redeveloped- the Root River is next. The goal of the Root River Council, Inc. is to involve the community and include public input in efforts to revitalize the Root River.

The Root River Council, Inc. has created an Urban Root River Plan that includes recommendations to spur redevelopment while improving water quality and public access to the Root River. Back to the Root: An Urban River Revitalization Plan is a vision for the future of the Root River that combines the best elements of a year’s worth of public input and market research.

The plan lays out recommendations to bring a positive attention back to the Root River within the City of Racine by focusing on four goals:

  • Create a Sense of Place

  • Promote Economic Growth

  • Increase Public Access and Interaction

  • Improve Water Quality

 The Root River has supported communities since the area’s first inhabitants walked its banks. For many years Racine used its river as the primary form of transportation for commerce. This historical use created an urban landscape that hid rivers behind warehouses and industrial buildings. This arrangement provided the economic foundation for the region. Racine is poised to recapture this momentum and economic potential as public improvements and private redevelopment efforts along the Root River are implemented.


Background on River Redevelopment:

Courtesy of Michigan State University

Urban waterfronts began as commerce centers. They survived on trade. Whether a city or town was located on an inland river or an ocean port, its main focus was on the transportation of goods via water. In the 18 th , 19 th and early 20 th centuries, as the industrial revolution began to take shape and shipping and manufacturing began to become powerful sectors in economic growth, waterfronts too moved forward. The bulk transport of cargo required that manufacturing be done near the port, reducing further transportation costs. This resulted in the building of massive industrial buildings and warehouses along all types of waterfronts, from inland river towns to massive ocean ports.

As trade was focused on the waterfront, the city center was often located as close as possible to the water. The remnants of the development is visible in almost any modern city (located near water) today. In New York , Boston , Chicago , Paris , London and Amsterdam , to name a few, waterfront property figures prominently in the view of the city’s commercial center.

Urban waterfronts, in the beginning of their development, however, lacked one main type of land use residential. While sailors and some traders may have lived near the waterfront, the land was typically devoid of the upper class, the rising middle class, and even the lower class. Waterfronts were bustling commerce centers, but often dirty and smelly due to manufacturing and waterfront industrial uses, and people tended to avoid them in order to live in more peaceful areas. The lack of residential living may be one of the causes of the earlier demise of waterfront property. Now the inclusion of new residential property in redeveloped waterfronts is crucial.

In the early and mid-20th century, waterfronts began to change. Transportation on water began to switch from bulk to container shipping, allowing massive waterfront transfer stations to be bypassed and left for other uses. It has been noted that there is no one main reason for the flight of manufacturing from cities, many factors are indeed involved. However, the new ease by which parts and materials could be transferred by container on rails and roads did permit manufacturing to move further and further from ports. As shipyards, bulk transfer facilities, warehouses and manufacturing facilities became vacant, urban waterfronts were left with large tracts of under-used, misused, and empty property. These properties often went into decay and became the eyesores of the community.


Funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant # NA12NOS4190091

Wisconsin Coastal Management Program

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration